In this New York CityPASS review, we’ll look at what the pass includes, consider the costs, and determine if this sightseeing pass is a good fit for your NYC travel plans. Enjoy!
With over 60 million visitors a year, New York City is the most popular tourist destination in the United States. It’s also one of the most expensive.
Home to incredible art, world-famous landmarks, and delicious food, New York deserves a spot on everybody’s bucket list. This town has something for everyone, but it doesn’t come cheaply.
Of course, you’re not going to travel all the way to New York and spend your entire trip in a hotel room. No way! You’ve got to get out and experience all the city has to offer…but it’s still important to save in any way you can.
Sightseeing passes are a great way to see a city’s most important attractions for less. Many destinations throughout the U.S. and Europe offer these passes, giving you the chance to see each city’s top attractions at a steep discount.
That’s where the New York CityPASS comes in. This nifty little pass can help you see some of NYC’s most important sites, and it could save you a lot of money while doing it.
But, is the New York CityPASS a good fit for you? Let’s find out.
New York CityPASS Review: How It Works
The New York CityPASS is a popular tourist pass that helps you save money on sightseeing in New York. By bundling entry fees to some of New York’s most popular attractions, this pass can save you up to 42% off the cost of admission on the included attractions! And, when you’re traveling to NYC, every penny you can save counts.
Rather than working on a consecutive day basis, the New York CityPASS includes a set number of attractions you can visit. In this case, you get to choose six out of the nine NYC attractions included with the pass. Three of these attractions are included on all passes, while the other six come in an “either/or” format. You have nine days to visit all six attractions, beginning with the day you first use the pass.
Upon purchasing the New York CityPASS, you’ll receive individual tickets that can be redeemed for entry at each site. You can receive your tickets in a physical paper booklet, or you have the option of getting the tickets emailed to you. From there, you can print off a paper copy or have the tickets scanned from your mobile device at each attraction.
Although most tickets can simply be scanned at the gate, be sure to read each ticket carefully. At some spots, you’ll need to scan your New York CityPASS ticket before receiving a reissued printed at the attraction. Again, simply read the directions on each ticket prior to arrival.
Attractions on the New York CityPASS
The New York CityPASS includes entry to six of the top nine tourist attractions in New York City. Three of these attractions are included with every pass, and you’re allowed to select an additional three sites from a list of six options. Attractions on every pass include:
- Empire State Building ($54.85 value)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art ($25.00 value)
- American Museum of Natural History ($28.00 value)
Additionally, you can visit three of the following attractions:
- Either Top of the Rock Observation Deck ($39.20 value) or Guggenheim Museum ($25.00 value)
- Either Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island ($18.50 value) or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ($37.00 value)
- Either 9/11 Memorial & Museum ($24.00 value) or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum ($33.00 value)
(*Attractions and pricing current as of January 16th, 2019)
To be honest, I think all of these sites are worth visiting. As you can see, though, entry fees aren’t exactly cheap – especially if you’re traveling with more than one person.
So, does a New York CityPASS actually save you money? Let’s find out.
New York CityPASS Pricing
With the New York CityPASS, you can save up to 42% on the cost of entry to some of New York’s top attractions. Here’s a quick look at the current pricing:
|Passes||New York CityPASS Price||Regular Price of Attractions||Savings with Pass|
|*Current as of 1/16/19|
|Adult (Ages 18+)||$126.00||$217.05||$91.05 (42%)|
|Youth (Ages 6-17)||$104.00||$198.45||$94.45 (48%)|
As you can see, this pass is a pretty darn good deal! Admission to the three sites included on every pass almost makes up for the cost of the pass alone. Add one more attraction and you’re already saving money.
Let’s assume you visit all three of the standard sites, then check out the Guggenheim Museum, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The regular value of these attractions totals $175.35, meaning you save $49.35 per adult with the pass. That’s a 28% savings, and these are the least expensive sites available!
The pass also entitles you to skip the ticket lines at certain sites, saving you valuable sightseeing time.
Deciding on a youth pass becomes a bit trickier, however. Because entry fees for children vary by attraction, I suggest running the numbers before splurging on a youth pass.
Generally speaking, if your child is older than six, you’re probably going to save money with this pass. If not, the pass might not help you save. With that said, in the absence of a youth pass, you may need to stand in line at some of the busier spots to purchase a child ticket. That may or may not be important to you. Your best bet is to run the numbers first and decide if it’s worth it for you.
New York CityPASS Attractions Guide
With the New York CityPASS, you’ll receive “free” admission to six of the best attractions in New York. Of the six included attractions, three of them come standard on every pass. From there, you get to choose three more sites from a list of six. Here’s a description of each spot so you know what you’re getting!
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building has long been one of the most iconic symbols of New York City. With your New York CityPASS, you’ll get free access to the 86th floor observatory. There, you’ll enjoy a 360 degree view from over 1,000 feet above the city. You also get access to the “Sustainability” and “Dare to Dream” exhibits inside this world-famous building. To top it off, your pass entitles you to bonus “same night” access, giving you the chance to see New York’s sprawling landscape during the day and its beautiful lights that same night.
American Museum of Natural History
One of the world’s most famous natural history museums, the American Museum of Natural History is not to be missed. Here you can spend some time with the skeletons of dinosaurs, check out the 94-foot long model of a blue whale, and enjoy the 28 world-famous habitat dioramas. You also get entry to the Rose Center for Earth and Space and either the giant 3D film or the space show.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the most visited attraction in all of New York, and that’s saying something! At the Met, you’ll find all styles of art from around the world, some of which are over 5,000 years old. With the New York CityPASS, you also get skip-the-line access and entry to all exhibitions at the museum.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Head to the top of Rockefeller Center and soak up the panoramic views of New York City. You’ll have access to the top three floors of this iconic building where you can see the city from either inside or out. You can even choose whether you want to visit during the day or at night. Keep in mind that this is one of the “either/or” options on the New York CityPASS.
The Guggenheim Museum is another of NYC’s most famous buildings. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building itself is considered a masterpiece of modern architecture. Inside, you’ll find special exhibitions and collections that include works by artists like Picasso, Cezanne, Pollock, and more.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty has stood as a symbol of American freedom for generations. With the New York CityPASS, spend some time enjoying the audio tour of this historic island. (Please note that access to the pedestal and crown of the statue are not included.) Then, make your way to Ellis Island for another audio tour and learn about the struggles of over 12 million immigrants who passed through these halls on their way to America.
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Choose from five different cruise options and enjoy a view of New York from the water. Soak up some spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, and the rest of NYC’s iconic skyline. Tours include a professional guide and a fully stocked cafe.
9/11 Memorial & Musuem
Few events in recent history have shaken the world like those of September 11th, 2001. Learn more about the history of the events, the personal struggles of loss, and the impact these attacks had on the world when you visit the 9/11 Memorial & Musuem. You can also stop by the twin reflecting pools and pay your respects to the victims of the attack while reading the nearly 3,000 names inscribed on the memorial.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
This 40,000 square foot museum was once a working aircraft carrier during World War II. The ship now houses a unique collection of historical artifacts and 28 different aircraft representing all 5 branches of the military. Additionally, you can explore the space shuttle Enterprise and check out the Growler – the only guided missile submarine whose doors are open to the public.
Other Benefits of the New York CityPASS
- Fast Track Entry – Like with most sightseeing passes, the New York CityPASS offers “fast track entry” at several of the included attractions. Where available, simply bypass the ticket window and present your pass ticket at the gate. Please read your tickets carefully to find which sites apply.
- Value – By bundling some of New York’s best attractions together in one pass, the New York CityPASS can save you up to 42% off the cost of the included attractions. Even if you visit the three standard attractions and only one of the optional sites, you’ll still make more than your money back on the pass.
- Convenience – Rather than purchasing tickets from each individual site, the New York CityPASS makes buying your sightseeing tickets easy. Simply purchase the pass and all of your tickets are included in one place.
- Valid for 9 Days – One of the best things about the New York CityPASS is that you have 9 days to use it. Rather than rushing through each site, you can take your time and enjoy them. Each pass is valid for 9 consecutive days, starting with the first day of use.
- Refunds Available – If you end up not being able to use your pass, unused passes may be exchanged for a full refund up to 365 days after the purchase date.
Where the New York CityPASS Falls Short
It’s hard to find a lot wrong with the New York CityPASS. Quite simply, it’s a really great pass for people who want to see just a few sites while they are in New York.
To be honest, I guess that’s where the pass falls short, as well. When compared to the over 90 options included on the New York Pass, the nine attractions – of which you only get to choose six – on the New York CityPASS seems fairly limited. However, you’ll end up paying significantly more for the New York Pass, so it is really a matter of which pass suits your travel style the best.
Additionally, the New York CityPASS comes with separate tickets for each venue. Unlike its sister pass, the Chicago CityPASS, it appears that you don’t need to turn in a voucher to redeem a physical ticket booklet. You can also receive your tickets in electronic format, which helps. Then, you may print those tickets off, or have your tickets scanned directly from your mobile phone at each attraction.
I’m really not sure why they don’t fix this, although the electronic ticket option certainly does help. It seems like it would be really simple to just put everything on one card. That way, you wouldn’t have to keep track of each individual ticket.
Finally, while the pass includes an audio tour of the Statue of Liberty grounds, it does not include access to the pedestal or crown. With that said, I recommend not wasting your time going up to the crown. I did it, waited in line for 4 hours, and the view was much better from the pedestal. (The pedestal is worth a stop, but – again – it isn’t included with the pass.)
Other than that, I really see no reason not to consider the New York CityPASS. You’ll get to see some of the best attractions in NYC, and you’ll save a lot of money doing it.
Who Should Consider the New York CityPASS?
- First-time Visitors to New York City – The New York CityPASS is something any first-time visitor to NYC should consider. The pass includes entry to some of the most important attractions in New York, and it can save you money during your visit.
- Visitors Who ONLY Want to See the Included Sites – If your plan in the Big Apple is to hit just a few of the city’s major attractions, this is the pass for you. The New York CityPASS is no frills, no fluff. You’ll get entry to 6 of the biggest attractions in New York at a hefty discount, and that may be all you need. The pass is also valid for 9 days after your first use, so you can take your time at each spot.
- Travelers with Short Stays – If you’ll only be in town for the weekend and have plans other than sightseeing, this is a great pass for you. You’ll save money and still get to hit some of the biggest highlights in New York.
- Families and Small Groups – The New York CityPASS is the perfect way for families and small groups to see some of the best attractions in New York on a budget. At a savings of up to 42% per person, that adds up quickly when traveling in a group.
Who Should Skip the New York CityPASS?
- Heavy Sightseers – The New York CityPASS is great if you want to do just a little bit of sightseeing. However, if you want a lot more options, you may do better with this New York sightseeing pass instead.
- Those Who Won’t Visit at Least Four Attractions – If you don’t visit at least four of the attractions on the pass, you won’t get enough value to make it worth your while. Just buy your tickets at the gate instead.
Tips for Using the New York CityPASS
Thankfully, using the New York CityPASS is pretty much as straightforward as it sounds. Just present your tickets at each attraction, and you’re good to go. To squeeze the most value out of your pass, here are a few tips:
- Visit all six attractions. – To get the most out of your pass, be sure to visit all six available attractions. The more you see, the better the return on your investment.
- Run the numbers on a youth pass. – If you’re traveling with children five and younger, run the numbers before purchasing a youth pass. Free and reduced admission is available at most of these sites, but it varies by site and age. A youth pass may not save you money, although – without a youth pass – you may end up waiting in ticket lines at the attraction.
- Visit the Empire State Building twice. – The New York CityPASS includes a special ticket for the Empire State building, allowing you a bonus visit during the evening (same day only). These tickets are more expensive than the regular admission ticket, so take advantage of this perk to get the most value.
- Start early. – If you’ve only got a couple of days in New York, be sure to start your sightseeing early. That way, you can pack as much sightseeing into your day as possible.
Where to Buy a New York CityPASS
The best and easiest way to purchase your New York CityPASS is doing it online. Get yours here!
To retrieve your pass, you have two options. First, you can have a physical ticket booklet mailed to your address (shipping costs do apply).
You can also have your tickets emailed to you. Simply have the attendants at each attraction scan them from your mobile device to enter. I always think it’s a good idea to print off a paper copy to bring with you as well, just in case your phone isn’t working.
New York CityPASS Review: Is It Worth It?
Is the New York CityPASS a good deal? For many travelers, the answer is a definite YES.
If you’re taking a vacation in New York, you’ll almost certainly want to do some sightseeing. The New York CityPASS bundles some of the most popular tourist attractions in New York and provides you with the chance to save up to 42% off the cost of regular priced admission. That’s a huge amount of savings, so it’s definitely something you should consider.
In my opinion, the pass is best for those who have plenty of time but only want to do a little sightseeing. It’s also a good fit for those who only have time to hit a few of New York’s highlights.
So, if you’re traveling to New York City in the near future, you should definitely consider adding the New York CityPASS to your travel plans.
Have a great trip. Until next time, happy traveling!